Mobile subscriber additions by Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular have seen a steady decline since the launch of Reliance Jio last September but these are likely to stabilise soon because the new entrant has started billing. According to the Cellular Operators’ Association of India, Airtel witnessed a five per cent drop in monthly subscriber additions in October. In November, subscriber additions by Airtel fell to 1.08 million from 2.33 million in the previous month. Airtel’s subscriber additions in December-January revived with a plethora of offers, but declined to 1.25 million in February from 3.55 million in the previous month. “Reliance Jio’s going pay has taken some of the pressure off the incumbents, which are competing aggressively on price. This should stabilise the market to some extent and help slow the drop in the incumbents’ subscriber additions,” said Mahesh Uppal, an independent telecom expert. In January, Airtel announced a special offer to provide free data for 12 months worth up to Rs 9,000 to customers who switched to Airtel 4G.
The offer is available to anyone with a 4G handset who is not on the Airtel network. Existing Airtel customers upgrading to 4G handsets can also avail this offer.Vodafone’s net subscriber additions jumped over 75 per cent to 1.17 million in October and were down to 890,794 in November. After bouncing back to over 1.5 million in December and January, additions were again down to 792,063 in February. Vodafone announced a Super Hour scheme in January offering unlimited 3G or 4G data for one hour at a starting price of Rs 16 for prepaid customers. Idea Cellular, too, announced higher data use limits in select unlimited calling plans and is offering 3 GB additional mobile broadband for customers who upgrade to 4G handsets. Existing prepaid 4G handset users will receive 1 GB data free on a Rs 348 recharge pack in addition to unlimited voice calling and SMS. Those who recharge with this pack on a new 4G handset will receive an additional 3 GB data. These offers by the incumbents were designed to counter Reliance Jio’s Happy New Year offer announced in December, an extension of its Welcome offer announced in September.